WARREN, Ind. — Locking hands and having more freedom on the mat are some of what Rochelle freshman Roman Villalobos enjoys most about freestyle and greco-roman wrestling. Villalobos earned the opportunity to test his skills against some of the elite athletes in the United States over the weekend, when Villalobos suited up for the Illinois 14U team during the 2022 USAW 14U Freestyle & Greco-Roman National Championships at Warren Central High School.
Villalobos alternated between the 165-pound and 187-pound weight classes for Illinois, finishing with a 6-4 overall record over 10 freestyle and greco-roman matches. The talented freshman helped lead the state to a third-place national finish in the greco-roman tournament and a fourth-place national finish in the freestyle tournament. Illinois went 12-4 over 16 total duals.
“It was a lot of fun and I enjoyed representing my city and the state,” Villalobos said. “It was a really cool experience and it was a huge confidence booster for me. I felt like this was the first step toward a lot of things that are coming up for me during the high school season. My goals for the upcoming season are to win a lot of matches and to qualify for state in Champaign.”
The national tournaments capped off a highly successful eighth-grade year for Villalobos, who took third in 164 Senior Division at the IKWF State Championships in March. Villalobos then won both the 14U 165 USAW Illinois Freestyle and Greco-Roman State Championship titles before finishing first and second at the 2022 USAW Northern Plains Regionals in Wisconsin.
“The shots, movements and stances in freestyle and greco-roman wrestling are a lot different than folkstyle wrestling,” Villalobos said. “I’ve been wrestling for about nine years and what I enjoy most about the sport is being able to compete against whoever’s in front of me. The national meet made me feel very accomplished and it made me feel like more of a leader.”